Song of the Day #617: ‘Wrapped Up in Books’ – Belle & Sebastian

I last featured Belle & Sebastian on this blog during a theme week more than a year ago. Actually, that marked the beginning of my regular theme weeks dedicated to single artists or groups. And at the time I restricted myself to five songs regardless of the group’s discography.

As a result, I had to skip over several of the band’s albums, including 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress. I think Belle & Sebastian is ripe for another theme week sometime soon, one that gives each of their albums its proper due. But for now I’ll just highlight one song from this excellent album.

Dear Catastrophe Waitress was a stylistic departure for the band, boasting a more aggressive pop/rock sound thanks in large part to producer Trevor Horn. The move was frowned upon by some purists but I felt (and still feel) that it resulted in one of their very best albums.

‘Wrapped Up in Books’ is one of the more traditional B&S songs from this album. I’d be curious to hear interpretations of some of the specific lyrics. Overall I feel the song is about lacking the courage to live life fully.

I like that I actually found an official video for this song. That marked a departure for the band as well. In their early years it was difficult to even find a photo of the band, let alone a moving image. Here you get a glimpse of all three singers and, as I suspected, they all look like the kids in high school who never made it out of the library.

It was pretty bright, up on the rainbow bridge tonight
I could see into your window although you’re far away
You were racing in a car
Beside a boy, you just don’t know if he is up for
What you have in mind
If he is up for what you have in mind

Change is on the cards, but this time it will be hard
But I never want to leave you
We’ve never had a fight
You should never split a pole
You should never split at all
I wish I had two paths that I could follow
I’d write the ending without any sorrow

I will say a prayer, just while you are sitting there
I will wrap my hands around you
I know it will be fine
We’ve got a fantasy affair
We didn’t get wet, we didn’t dare
Our aspirations, are wrapped up in books
Our inclinations are hidden in looks

Summer’s hastening on
I’m trying to get a feeling from the city
But I’ve been unfaithful
I’ve been traveling abroad
We’ve got a fantasy affair
We didn’t get wet, we didn’t dare
But the fantasy remains
You better come back to earth again
Our aspirations, are wrapped up in books
Our inclinations are hidden in looks

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #617: ‘Wrapped Up in Books’ – Belle & Sebastian

  1. Dana says:

    Well, I know I am probably being far too literal, but the song appears to be about a man (the singer) who has never acted on attraction to another woman, possibly because he is married or involved with someone, and/or possibly because she is with someone (the boy in the car) or possibly just because he is too shy. Their “relationship” of course is idealized by the singer as a fairy tale fantasy without conflict or strife because it exists solely in his mind and is therefore free from the frictions of a real relationship.

    Anyway, another good song from B&S.

  2. Amy says:

    I agree with Dana’s interpretation, but the line I find especially provocative is “our aspirations are wrapped up in books.” The singer (and the object of his affection) could be such intellectuals that all of their conversation stems from what they’re reading and pondering at the moment. It also could suggest that they’re so steeped in the world of literature that they are taking their cues about how to act in a relationship from the books they read. Or it could suggest that they are so “wrapped up” as to be entirely unable to act at all. Their fantasy is so much larger than life that to risk getting wet and finding the reality unsatisfying in comparison is something they aren’t (or he isn’t) willing to do.

    Regardless, I like the song a lot.

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